On Not Holding Back Joy

woman hugging husband sharing the joy of pregnancy

Due to some health issues that my husband and I had known about long before we starting trying to have children, we had to try to conceive in a fertility clinic. That process is not fun. At all.

But after our third month of trying, I went in for my blood pregnancy test. Later that day, we got the phone call I’d been imagining for the past ninety days, and in a way, for the past 31 years of my life. I put my phone on speaker and grabbed my husband. “I’m calling with great news,” said the nurse. “You’re pregnant!”


My husband and I started screaming. All I remember saying is, “we’re going to be parents!”

We hung up and just stared at each other. We’d done it. The roller coaster of the medicalized baby-making process was over. We were going to have a child, and it was growing inside me as we spoke.


We called our families immediately.

This lucky kid was going to be everyone’s first grandchild, first niece or nephew, first great-grandchild. We got to see our parents’ faces when we told them that they were going to be grandparents. We called our friends who had been with us on the fertility journey and shared the news. Next to our wedding, it was the happiest day of my life.


All signs pointed to a healthy pregnancy.

I took a pregnancy test every morning for the first week, and each day the line got darker and came up faster than the day before. I was exhausted. My boobs were growing by the day. No spotting. With every pregnancy symptom, I felt relief that things were progressing the right way.


My husband and I made a clandestine trip to Babies R Us and tested out strollers.

He rubbed my belly and said goodbye to our baby each day before we went to work, and at night we talked to it, laying belly-to-belly so it could get to know its daddy too. We made a secret nursery Pinterest board. We went to the beach and bought an impossibly tiny onesie with a crab on the butt, our baby’s first souvenir. We had five weeks of pure, unadulterated happiness. We did not hold back.


Then, at what we thought would be our farewell visit to the fertility clinic, we went in for an ultrasound.

A formality before they turned me over to my OB. I chatted with the tech as I climbed up on the table. My husband squeezed my hand. We were going to get to see our baby for the first time.


The amniotic sac was there, but it was empty.

No baby inside. Blighted ovum, we learned it was called.


The next month was the hardest of our lives.

I was a shell of a person, as empty as the sac that had been growing, uninhabited, inside me. All I could do was stare at the wall and cry.

Now, seven weeks after that horrible ultrasound and the D&C procedure that followed a few days later, we are waiting around for my period to show up and then we can start trying again.


But as sad as I am about the loss of this pregnancy, what I’m saddest about is our shattered innocence.

The next time, I’m not going to feel that pure elation that I felt when I got the call from our nurse. Our excitement is going to be tinged with the knowledge that the hammer of bad news could come down at any time and smash everything to pieces.


And then I feel angry.

Because our eventual kid, the one that makes it past the hazing that is pregnancy, deserves better than that. It deserves our excited screams the moment we learn about its existence. It deserves to be the one who causes the unforgettable look on my mother-in-law’s face when we said, “You’re going to be a grandma!” It deserves the celebratory flowers that my in-laws sent us the day after we shared the happy news. And it probably won’t get those things, because I don’t think any of us could muster those same emotions even if we tried.


Instead, it’s initially going to get a mix of caution, fear, and uncertainty.

Its grandparents probably won’t find out about its existence quite so quickly, and the look on their faces when we tell them is going to be different, their parental instinct of wanting to shield their children from pain at first superseding the excitement of impending grandparenthood. I’m probably not going to sign up for emails that give me weekly updates on the size of the baby until I’m past the first trimester, lest I re-experience the agony of checking my email the day after the ultrasound and seeing four different emails informing me that our baby, who we now knew would never exist, would have been the size of an olive. Early pregnancy will be more about self-preservation and fear than anything else.


But even given all this, I’m so glad we didn’t hold back our joy this past go-round.

I’m glad we told our families and close friends, rather than waiting and then telling them in one breath that we were pregnant but now we’re not. I’m glad we bought that onesie, our indulgence of first-trimester optimism that we will never have again. I’m glad I learned each week about my little sesame seed/blueberry/raspberry, because the next time I won’t.

Most of all, I’m glad I let myself go all-in and experience that exquisite happiness. I can’t wait to hold our eventual baby in my arms so I can experience it again, and maybe treasure it a little more deeply for knowing what it took to regain it.

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  • I’m so sorry, but thankful to hear your story… thank you for sharing with us. I bawled my eyes out reading this….
    Last year was the hardest of my entire life… we went through several IVF cycles and had 4 embryo transfers which we lost before changing fertility specialists early this year & becoming pregnant with this little miracle that i am now 29weeks pregnant with.
    The other day a friend asked me what my partner’s reaction to the happy news was like… I had to explain that there was no *moment* …that it was actually a very scary and confusing time… 5 days before i was expected to have my pregnancy blood test (after having the embryo transfer) i started bleeding… heavy bright red blood… and it felt just like my period. I presumed i had again lost our little embryo… and began grieving… But when i rang the nurses they told me to have the blood test early to check what was happening… and despite the bleeding and cramping the HCG hormone was rising! I was in absolute shock. and just didn’t believe it…. and was still just so very scared and confused as to what was happening …. how could baby survive 2 weeks of heavy bleeding??? But she did! and now she is a healthy little wiggly baby bump that it growing by the day! Not till i heard that little heart beat pattering so so fast on the ultrasound did i believe it was actually happening… and even then it was a very very cautious belief. I have tried to explain to friends and family members that for the first good part of this pregnancy i found it very very hard to get excited and elated about it all, even though of course it is EVERYTHING i have always wanted… I felt really weird about not feeling happy at first. I was just terrified… and actually kind of sad. … Because i had become accustomed to disappointment.
    But now that i do feel my little wiggly baby kicking and rolling about in there i do feel so so much joy! and LOVE! so much love for my bubba, and my wonderful man. The emotions are so deep and i think all the richer for having been on such a journey already.
    I cannot wait to hold our little one in my arms! and even though i missed out on the joy of the “I’M PREGNANT!!!” moment…. i know that moment of meeting our beautiful little daughter for the first time is going to be absolute gold. …and probably all the more richer for having gone through what we have to get here.

    I wish you all the best for you in the future*:.

  • The loss of innocent joy is a dreadful thing. We, too, lost our innocence when I miscarried our first child at 7 weeks. That time around, we hadn’t told anyone—we were waiting to surprise everyone after our 8 week “confirmation” appointment. Instead, I had to call my mom to tell her “I was pregnant, but I’m pretty sure I’m miscarrying.” That night I lost the baby.

    When we got pregnant with our son later that year, instead of being elated, I was terrified. Doubting every day, questioning every pain, terrified every time I went to the bathroom—dreading the sight of that bright red blood again. I’d like to say that the fear went away, but that would be lying. Even once I could feel my son’s movements, I worried when he was still. I was constantly unable to simply “enjoy this time of bonding.” And, it did affect my ability to bond. I’m not sure I really bonded with my son at all during the pregnancy. I was too afraid.

    BUT—and, here is where the hope comes in—BUT, when my son was born? I have never felt such an intense rush of emotions. Here was my SON. My child. The one I had carried all those months and worried about. That’s when the bonding happened, and it was absolutely miraculous.

    My son may not have gotten the screams and the innocent excitement that other babies get. But when he was born—when it mattered—he got everything he needed. The tears, the joy, the laughter, the amazement. And, he got it from parents whose love was deeper and fiercer for having walked through loss. When I hold him, I think of his sibling, and I think of how precious these moments are—everyone one of them—even the frustrating ones.

    Yes, we may have lost our innocence. But, it’s been replaced by a deep gratitude for the blessings we have—an ability to cherish each moment, knowing it’s not guaranteed. And, in the end, I’m not sure that my son has lost out. The grief and loss has made our love deeper and stronger and our son is all the better for it.

  • I’m so sorry for your loss. I remember that the emails about the size of my unborn child, who had already left me, were just awful. I unregistered and never signed up again, through multiple “positives” that turned into losses. When one looked like it was going to make it- 3 years into treatments including multiple unsuccessful IVF’s- I told my family in month 8, and even then it was only after some advanced ultrasounds and blood tests.

    And I do feel like I was cheated the first 34 or so weeks of joy, since I didn’t let myself attach emotionally to the pregnancy until about month 7.

    But I will say, don’t worry, when your intended child comes to you, however that child comes to you, it will still be celebrated by your friends and family. Maybe even more appreciated, as they’ll know what you’ve been through trying. The excitement of being at 8 months, then at 9 months are unique. And the incredible joy of your first cuddle is still to come. You haven’t “spent” it yet, it’s still banked in your reserve of future firsts. It’ll all be good soon. 🙂

  • I’m so sorry to hear of your loss and also that you will never feel that same joy about becoming pregnant again, I can totally understand why though. I feel so so lucky that I have 2 children and have never suffered miscarriage, I know it is a harsh reality for so many expectant parents. I really hope that one day soon you will hold your baby in your arms, until then take care of yourself.xx #BlogCrush

  • Oh yes. That loss of innocence is so devastating. And do we dare to hope again? Too soon to know. Easter will never be the same again. #blogcrush

  • I have been there 3 times. This post sums up my feelings, fears etc., Being robbed of the pure innocent joy is the worst part! Wishing you a healthy happy pregnancy!

  • I read this with tears. I am so sorry for your loss, and the loss of innocence for future pregnancies as well. I lost my first pregnancy too and I don’t think that pain will ever go away, though it does lessen over time. I was lucky enough to get pregnant again about one year ago and once the panic attacks subsided, I truly enjoyed every moment of it. I now have a beautiful 4 month old daughter and I know I will never take her for granted. Thank you for writing this and sharing your story. I wish you the best for the future.

  • Thank you for sharing your heart. We also suffered several losses through fertility treatments before our little miracle girl was born this past July. Such an exhausting and emotional journey. Hoping and believing for your miracle. Take care.

  • After miscarrying in July, I became pregnant right away. I approached it cautiously but I was excited. Unfortunately 2 weeks ago we found out it was ectopic. Part of me just wants to get pregnant right away again but I am so scared for the what if’s now.

  • Almost this exact same thing happened to us. 2 years into infertility we learned that we were pregnant. Went in for an ultrasound at 7 weeks and there was a heartbeat, went for a second one a week later, no heartbeat. We had no idea, I was having morning sickness and everything. I go over and over that week in my head wondering if there was some clue that I missed. The absolute worst part of all of that was that we thought everything was fine. We got pregnant the next cycle we tried, but I could no longer trust myself that when everything seemed fine, it actually was. It was a very hard pregnancy, lots of panic attacks on my end and very little excitement. The pregnancy had its share of complications too, but at the end my son was born 2 weeks late and exactly a year to the day after I had the D and C. Holding him made everything ok again. My advice, buy a heartbeat monitor as soon as you can reliably find the heartbeat and find a good therapist and prenatal yoga class. Without those three things I would not have survived this. Oh and spoil yourself now, I got a massage after the D and C and it helped a lot. Best wishes.

  • This is so wonderfully written, and painfully accurate. I’m sobbing at my desk, reliving our painful experience that was very similar. Our little Olive. I still mourn for that baby regularly, and always will. We have a 10 month old now, and went through the cautious excitement of that pregnancy. Our son is the light of our life, and I know his sister is always watching over him. I send love to the author and thank her for this candid writing!

  • I fully understand the feelings in this article. I lost a pregnancy at 20 weeks last year. It came out of nowhere – a healthy, seemingly normal pregnancy until there was no heartbeat at the 4 month OB appointment. I became pregnant again a week after my D&C procedure and I was terrified. I don’t think I relaxed until I held my beautiful baby boy in my arms. With my first, I never even considered losing her and enjoyed a blissful ignorance. After the loss of my second child I will never approach pregnancy as a given ever again. Nothing is promised but that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying and hoping for the best.

  • I understand. My first pregnancy was a blighted ovum and we also suffered other devastating losses. The joy becomes bittersweet, but it is still present. I hope your happiness is around the corner and I am so sorry for your loss.

  • Exactly that. I wish I could have been so excited and full of joy when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter. But I couldn’t, not after having an ectopic pregnancy 9 months before. I was scared, and cautious. But I still told my parents because I wanted them for me if it went wrong again. I am lucky that I disn’t hVe to do fertility treatments, That I now have two beautiful girls. But it robbed me of the fearless joy. What I gained instead is an appreciation for the miracle of getting pregnant, the preciousness of a heart beat. I can never take my children for granted.

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